Crime & Traffic Law

We specialise in criminal matters – from minor offences to a range of charges including:

  • Drink driving and DUI offences
  • Traffic offences – minor and major
  • Drug matters, possession only
  • Sexual assault, indecent assault
  • Resisting arrest / Assault Police
  • Domestic Violence / Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (APVOs) and Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs)
  • Robbery, larceny, break and enter, malicious damage

What to do if you have been charged

Key to resolving many legal issues is to attend to them without delay. We don’t charge for the first appointment so if you need advice please call and we can help guide you through the immediate stages. If bail is required, we can assist with your application and help you work towards a fair result.

At the first meeting with your lawyer, bring all documents with respect to the charge including the Field Court Attendance Notice (CAN) the full charge and fact sheet (normally sent to you after the charge is made), the breath analysis or blood test for PCA or DUI, a copy of your traffic history (available from Roads and Maritime Services) and criminal records (if relevant).

We will discuss the charges and applicable penalties and the best way moving forward.

Drink Driving Offences

A drink driving charge can quickly turn into a criminal record, with very serious consequences – from losing your licence, which means losing your transport and possibly your job or your ability to find future work

Drink Driving Penalties in NSW

Driving under the influence of alcohol is an offence. The limits are a Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) reading of .05 or above, or .02 or above for drivers of certain heavy vehicles or carrying dangerous goods. Learner-drivers or P-plate holders have a Zero alcohol limit.

If a person is convicted of a drink-driving offence, there is an automatic period of disqualification during which they cannot hold a licence. The penalties imposed depend on the PCA reading and whether the person is a first-time offender or has had a previous offence or offences. These readings are generally referred to as:

  • Low Range PCA
  • Mid Range PCA
  • High Range PCA

The penalty relates directly to the level of alcohol revealed in the blood test, but there is a range, and ultimately the magistrate decides on which penalty will apply. With the right representation, you can ensure the result you get is the best possible for your charge.

Drivers convicted of an offence for low-range PCA (readings from 0.05 to less than 0.08) for the first time, can now have their licences immediately disqualified for three months. These laws were recently introduced to reflect the Government’s zero-tolerance approach to drink-driving. Offenders may still have the matter heard in Court and appeal a suspension however should obtain legal advice, as longer disqualification periods and higher penalties may be applied.

Traffic and driving offences

Traffic offences range from minor to very serious offences that could result in significant penalties including heavy fines, loss of licence and even a prison sentence.

Common traffic offences include registration and licensing matters (driving unlicensed or whilst disqualified or suspended), driving under the influence (DUI), prescribed concentration of alcohol charges (PCA), speeding, dangerous driving, negligent driving, RMS demerit points and habitual offender offences.

How to respond to a traffic charge depends on a range of matters – how serious the offence is and the surrounding circumstances, whether the accused person has a criminal history and, for offences such as PCA and DUI, the person’s participation in rehabilitation and pre-sentencing programs.

Going to Court

The outcome of a traffic matter may be improved by ensuring the person facing Court is properly informed and equipped to answer the charges. Obtaining dependable legal advice can make a big difference.

Traffic offences generally have an automatic disqualification period and a minimum disqualification period. The automatic disqualification operates as a ‘default’ and may be reduced (depending on the type of offence) and provided there is sufficient cause to do so. This means putting a case (submissions) to the Court and providing supporting material such as:

  • details of your character, work history and family circumstances including involvement in the community;
  • whether there are medical issues relevant to the offending behaviour or other plausible reasons for having committed the offence;
  • your reliance on a driver’s licence for work or other reasons such as a need for ongoing medical treatment, and the impact the loss of a licence has or will have on your future;
  • whether you have prior criminal convictions;
  • a reference from a respected person who can vouch for your character, is aware of the charges being made and addresses specific aspects of the matter in light of the circumstances.

Programs such as the Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment (MERIT) or Traffic Offender Intervention Program (TOIP) may be appropriate.

Section 10 orders

If you have been charged with a criminal offence your lawyer may request the Court that it be dealt with by a section 10 order. A successful order will result in the court proving the charge but not proceeding with a conviction – this means not having a permanent criminal record and having the charge dismissed either unconditionally, or with conditions such as a good behaviour bond or participation in an intervention program.

Submissions will set out your personal circumstances and family support, background and employment, involvement in community work and sporting associations, the impact the charge has had, and is likely to have if a conviction is made, remorse for the offence and any other relevant matters. The Court has discretion to grant a section 10 order if it is convinced that it is appropriate or expedient to do so.

Being charged with a criminal offence that may result in a conviction and significant penalties will dramatically impact your life, your family and career. We provide efficient, honest advice and a realistic expectation as to the possible outcomes for your matter.

If you need any assistance contact one of our lawyers at info@dsplawyers.com.au or call (02) 9818 2888 for a no-obligation discussion and for expert legal advice.

Common Offence Information

A list of Common Offences listed before the local courts of Sydney.

Affray

A person who uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another person and whose conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her personal safety, is guilty of affray and liable to imprisonment for 10 years – however the matter can be dealt with in the Local Court or District Court. Most of these types of charges are completed in the Local Court where the potential penalties are substantially less.

Affray is an increasingly popular charge used by police, often inappropriately, in circumstances where a charge of assault or offensive conduct might suffice, or perhaps to unfairly invoke the harsh bail provisions.

It is worth noting that a person of reasonable firmness need not be present; that a threat cannot be made by the use of words alone; that if 2 or more persons use unlawful conduct, it is their conduct taken together for the purpose of determining whether or not an offence has been committed; he offence can be committed in public or private places.

Assault

Common Assault – Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, Maliciously Inflict Grievous Bodily Harm; Recklessly Inflict Grievous Bodily Harm, Sexual Assault, Indecent Assault, Assault Police, Murder

Assault occurs where a person intentionally or recklessly causes another person to fear immediate violence, which may or may not involve the use of force. Force can include hitting, punching, striking, kicking, pushing, poking, touching or indeed any application of force – it does not matter whether it is soft or hard or whether injury occurs.

There are different categories of assault – some of those reflect the degree of injury and aggravation – such as Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm, Malicious Wounding, Maliciously or Recklessly Inflict Grievous Bodily Harm. Others reflect the nature of the assault such as Sexual Assault and Indecent Assault. There are also offences where a person is assaulted during the course of their occupation – such as Assault Police.

Assault is known at law as an indictable offence that can be dealt with summarily. This means that for a typical assault matter it can be disposed of in the Local Court. Some of the more serious forms of assault however are dealt with in the District Court upon indictment.

The penalties for assault upon conviction can range from a monetary fine to time in gaol.

Assault Police and Resist Police

Assault Police is a category of assault aggravated by the fact that it is carried out on a police officer who is acting at the time in the execution of their duty.

Resist Arrest (also known as Resist Police) is where someone resists the actions of a police officer or police officers who is/are acting at the time in the execution of their duty.

It is not at all uncommon to find that a person charged with Assault Police is also charged with Resist Police. In fact, these 2 charges together with a third offence, typically Offensive Language or similar, were previously used so frequently in combination that they were known as ‘the trifecta’.

An officer can be off duty but take action, such as to affect an arrest, during which they are assaulted or the accused person resists that officer. The fact that the officer was off-duty, even if they failed to state that they were a police officer, does not invalidate the offence – acting whilst off-duty in the execution of their duties is sufficient – even if there is no intention to assault a police officer.

However, if a police officer was acting unlawfully, then the accused cannot be convicted.

The broad legal definition of assault is the commission intentionally or recklessly causing another person to apprehend or fear immediate violence. We often defend matters where there has been some trivial or minor contact with a police officer in circumstances that the officer could not genuinely claim that they feared immediate violence.

Apprehended Violence Orders and Breach of Apprehended Violence Orders

If you breach an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), you risk a criminal conviction and criminal record as well as penalties that include steep fines or even imprisonment. You might be forced to move out of your house. You might be prevented or restricted from seeing your children or going to or near a particular location.

For those reasons alone, you should seek the expert assistance of one of our criminal law specialists.

The AVO itself is not a criminal record or conviction. However breaching an AVO order and being convicted is a criminal offence. Therefore before you consent to an order you should get legal advice.You should get legal advice before making this decision***

Break and Enter Offences

When people think of ‘break and enter’ they often think of break enter and steal. However, stealing need not be part of this offence. A person can break and enter and commit an indictable offence such as sexual assault, or intimidation etc.

‘Breaking’ does not necessarily mean breaking a window or door or picking a lock. Simply opening a closed window or door to gain access to premises is sufficient. However, if a person enters through an open window or door, there is no ‘break’ and that offence cannot factually be proved guilty.

There are various forms of aggravating circumstances of a break and enter, including where more than one person breaks into premises, or where a person breaks in knowing a person is at home, or breaks in at night.

The penalties are really severe so you need to get proper advice.

Drug Offences

If you have been arrested for buying drugs, dealing drugs, drug charges, or drug importing then you need to be represented by a solicitor who deals in this area of law. .

The most common charge is for drug possession, however other offences include getting caught driving with drugs, failing drug swab testing or the saliva drug test.

All drug offences potentially carry a gaol sentence. Usually though, it is people caught with drugs other than for their personal use that will find themselves in serious trouble. The Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act sets out the penalties for all State drug offences including personal possession and supply of small quantity, trafficable quantity, indictable quantity, commercial quantity, and large commercial quantity of the many different types of drugs.

New drug testing laws for drivers involve the use of saliva drug testing essentially to detect if the driver is a recent drug user, whether or not if affects their operation of a motor car.

People caught in possession of drugs or drug dealing may also find their property the subject of assets forfeiture orders, property restraint orders and the like under the Criminal Assets Recovery Act. You do not have to be convicted or even charged with a criminal offence to fall within this legislation.

The bottom line is that if you are in trouble for a drug offence, you need proper legal advice and representation.

Goods in Custody

Offences of goods in custody and receiving involve the unlawful possession of property or unlawful disposing of property. It is a summary version of the indictable version of this offence which is known as Receiving.

Section 527C Crimes Act sets out the offence of Goods in Custody. The offence involves the situation where a person has anything in his or her custody, or in the custody of another person, or on premises (whether occupied by that person or not), or gives custody of that thing to person who is not lawfully entitled to possession – in circumstances where the ‘thing’ may be reasonably suspected of being stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained. Except in cases where the property is a car, the penalty is a maximum fine of $500 and imprisonment for up to 6 months.

There is a statutory defence to police charges of this type if the accused satisfies the court that he or she had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the item was stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.

Police often charge people where they are ‘suspicious’ as to their possession of an item – for example, money, or a nice watch, or a new mobile phone. An example of giving property to a person not entitled lawfully to possession includes pawning the item at a pawn broker.

Aside from the statutory defence, we often defend these charges on the basis that there are no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the item was stolen or unlawfully obtained. Police suspicion is not always reasonable.

Other technical issues that arise in these matters include the concept of possession, which requires knowledge. If you did not know the item existed, how could you possess it? The timing of the possession is another aspect where we regularly have success.

Receiving is a more serious charge that carries more significant penalties – up to 10 years imprisonment (more if it involves a motor vehicle). It can be dealt with in the Local Court unless an election is made for it to go to the District Court. Receiving involves receiving property knowing it to be stolen, or disposing or attempting to dispose of it.

Receiving is often treated more harshly than the stealing of the goods – “without the receiver there would be no market for the thief” – therefore by deterring the receiver, there is less of a market for stolen goods.

Often when people are charged with Receiving, they will also be charged with Goods in Custody in case it cannot be proved that the accused knew the items were stolen. Goods in Custody is far easier to prove.

Malicious Damage

Malicious damage means intentionally damaging property. It cannot be accidental – if it is, there is no offence committed. Malicious damage can occur through recklessness. It also includes temporary damage or making something temporarily unusable such as by graffiti or urinating on some object requiring it to be cleaned.

The precise circumstances of an incident may make it difficult to distinguish between malicious, reckless and accidental actions. Someone witnessing an incident might believe the other person’s actions were deliberate, however that person might not agree.

Alcohol and anger often play a part in the damage of property. They might also play a part in the view taken by a witness or owner of the damaged property.

If you have been accused of malicious damage, you need to seek proper legal advice. Penalties can be severe and include the potential for imprisonment.

Stealing or Larceny

Stealing basically involves taking a person’s property, without consent, without a claim of right over the property, and with the intention of permanently depriving the person of the use of their property.

It can occur in so many different ways that it is hard to list. It includes shoplifting and it can include finding property (such as money or a watch or wallet) in the street and deciding to keep it – referred to as stealing by finding – whereby the acquisition of the property might not have been unlawful at the time.

Stealing potentially carries a sentence of imprisonment and is treated seriously by the courts. The value of the property may have some part to play in the sentencing process, as will the circumstances in which the offence is alleged to have occurred – such as the degree of planning used in committing the offence or whether there was a relationship of trust between the owner and the person who took the property.

Sometimes however a person has a claim of right of the property that they took. They might honestly hold a belief that they were entitled to take possession of the property – and therefore might not be guilty of any offence.

It is possible to steal your own property! For example, if you took your car for repairs but failed to pay the account and the mechanic refused to hand over your car until payment was made, you could be charged with stealing if you used a spare key to take your car because the mechanic had special ownership over your property.

Stealing is an offence of dishonesty and this is reflected in the punishments imposed by Courts.

If you are charged with a stealing matter, you need to seek proper legal advice.